How Did I Get Here?

When I sat down at my desk a few days ago, the room suddenly turned dark, and there was a loud buzzing sound. I realized I had entered a wormhole, and I was being transported back in time to a day several years ago.

* * *

I was running on a dirt trail in a park near my home and I was listening to an audiobook on my iPod Shuffle. The book was one of the Rabbi Small mysteries by Harry Kemelman, and I was enjoying the story. As I jogged by a fence and around a turn, a thought lit a fire in my brain. I could write a mystery as good as the one I was listening to! It would be fun to write a novel just to see what it would be like. I finished my run, returned home, showered and dressed. Then I sat down in a recliner in our living room with my computer on my lap and began to type.

* * *

The wormhole suddenly closed, and I was back at my desk, a relatively new, six-foot-long testimony to my dedication to this writing journey. Desk-reorg day is later in the week, so the desk is messy, piled with papers and post-it notes – reminders of upcoming events and to-dos I shouldn’t ignore.

Two whiteboards sit on the back of the desk, leaning against the wall with lists of books to read and others I’ve read and need to review. A map of the Hero’s Journey is magnetically tacked to one of the whiteboards along with a few inspirational sayings. Reminders to Make Haste Slowly, Be Intentional, Make It Count.

My writing calendar is just inside the middle drawer of the desk. A glance at the page tells me about my obligations this month for blog posts, book promotions, meetings, and everything else that’s writing-related.

The Windows 10 laptop in front of me on the desk houses dozens of directories containing information from branding to short stories, from newsletters to marketing graphs.  This is where I handle email, write articles, post to social media, create jpgs and pngs to market books and share thoughts on writing.

A second laptop, a Mac, sits on the desk’s pullout shelf to my left. It’s owned by the publishing company my husband and I formed in order to publish our own works. I use it to format and publish the final copies.

A third laptop, another Mac, stays on the bar in the kitchen where I can glance over an occasional news story while I eat breakfast. Scrivener lives on that Mac, and it accompanies me to my office recliner, along with a glass of sparkling water when I sit down to spend serious time on my WIP.

A list of writing goals is taped to the back of my office door so I see it every time I close the door to begin work.

Bookshelves against the wall next to my recliner are filled with books on the craft of writing, constant reminders of how much I still have to learn. The bottom shelf contains copies of my three published novels as well as my husband’s recently published debut novel. Three-ring binders contain pages of notes on each of my books as well as several works-in-progress.

Other bookshelves in my office and throughout the house contain favorite tomes. (I really should spend some time reorganizing so I don’t have to go on safari just to find what I’m looking for.)

* * *

How did I get here? I was going to write just one novel. It was going to be fun, an act of exploration, like climbing a mountain. Do it once for the experience.

But then I discovered the craft and the joy of writing.

So TKZers: When did you decide to write that first novel? How did you get to the present moment? Were you surprised by the journey? Are you going to stay the course?

This entry was posted in Writing by Kay DiBianca. Bookmark the permalink.

About Kay DiBianca

Kay DiBianca is a former software developer and IT manager who retired to a life of mystery. She’s the award-winning author of three mystery novels, The Watch on the Fencepost, Dead Man’s Watch, and Time After Tyme. Connect with Kay on her website at https://kaydibianca.com.

41 thoughts on “How Did I Get Here?

  1. Good morning, Kay. What a wonderful story. As I read about the world of writing, into which you have immersed yourself, I was reminded that in a former occupation we called it the “practice” of medicine. We were always learning, always practicing, always striving to become better. We should call ourselves “practicing” writers.

    My journey began with editing my father’s memoirs, as he was turning 90, had dementia, and had almost lost his rough draft. After a summer editing, having his book printed, and seeing the joy in his eyes when I presented him with a box of his books on his birthday, I was infected. I thought I would write articles for woodworking magazines, so I took a correspondence course from Long Ridge Writers Group (now Institute for Writers). When I saw that part of the course was on fiction, I almost skipped it. But I didn’t, and my infection with the love of writing exploded into full blown sepsis. I took the writers group’s novel-writing course and began to read JSB’s books. I found TKZ, and I haven’t looked back, other than to say, “Why didn’t I find this path earlier?”

    I am looking for NO cure. I plan to stay infected as long as I am physically able.

    Best wishes for your journey.

    • Good morning, Steve!

      I love the term “practicing writers.” Very appropriate. And “the love of writing exploded into full blown sepsis.” I can relate. It’s a chronic infection that I’m grateful for every day.

      What a wonderful way you started your writing career – by honoring your father. That’s a great story in itself.

      Have a good week!

    • I love this story, Steve, and how helping your dad finish his memoirs inspired you to write. I can’t recall if I told you before, but I’m also a graduate of Long Ridge Writers School.

      Practice is exactly the word for what we writers do.

  2. I’ve approached the writer’s life like a snail, though I’ve often wished I was a cheetah instead. 😎 The desire to write came at a very young age but now that you got me thinking about it, I’m not sure a first specific novel idea formed in my head until around 2000 or so (it feels weird to type 2000–like it’s ancient history!)

    I’m not sure I’ve been surprised along the way other than to realize how much extra there is to learn business-wise now that we’re in the era of indie publishing vs. relying strictly on the traditional publishing model. But still I keep plodding forward. I just want to enjoy the writing journey.

    • Good morning, BK!

      I know what you mean about having the desire to write at an early age. But, like you, the decision to write a specific book came much later for me.

      There is so much to learn in this writing life. Enjoy the journey!

  3. Nursing a pulled back muscle, so computer time is limited (and of course today’s the day my editor sent the second round of comments.) To save typing time, here’s my journey

    • Good morning, Terry. Sorry to hear about your pulled back muscle. Hope you heal quickly.

      I enjoyed reading your writing journey. The idea that your son never actually watched the TV show that got you started sounds like a great premise for a novel. (I might steal that idea.)

      Take care of your back and feel better soon.

  4. Man, I can’t get past how well organized you are! Wow. I wish I had that gene. I especially appreciate the idea that you have several computers for different tasks. That’s so smart. Am going to go tidy up my C drive now…. 🙂

    • Good morning, Kris!

      As I sit here looking at my desk, the word “organized” doesn’t come to mind. With apologies to T.S. Eliot, I sometimes think I’m measuring out my life with post-it notes.

      Having a different computer for each major task really is good. It wasn’t an intentional decision from the start, but things just worked out that way, and I’m glad they did.

      Have a great week.

  5. I could so relate to your journey, Kay. I wrote my first novel longhand on a legal pad in the early morning hours by candlelight. Then transferred to a clunker of ol’ HP, where I wrote my second novel. I bought a Chromebook to write my third and fourth novel and launch my website/Murder Blog. For my fifth novel I upgraded to a wide-screen Toshiba, where I wrote my sixth and seventh novel. In the middle of novel #7, it crashed. Yeah, that was a ton of fun. I finally had had it Windows and switched to Mac.

    Never looked back. Today, I use a Macbook Pro for the days I want to snuggle near the wood stove or on rainy days when my body feels better in the recliner. The rest of the time I use the iMac at my desk.

    When I look back, I laugh, considering I taught myself how to type on a piece of cardboard with a keyboard drawn on it.

    • Good morning, Sue!

      What a wonderful journey. I love the story from legal pads to MacBook Pro! I’m not sure why, but I like typing on the Mac rather than the HP when I’m working on a book. There’s some slight difference in sensory perception. (Another good premise for a story?)

      You reminded me of a podcast I heard a few years ago that compared longhand writing with typing — the plusses and minuses of each. I think it would be a good TKZ post.

      Have a great week!

    • Personal computers really didn’t exist when I started my first novel. I wrote it on legal pads then typed it on an IBM Selectric typewriter. Lots and lots of white out was used. I bought one of the first Apple Iic computers and wrote my fourth novel. So much time saved. And it really changed how I wrote, too.

  6. You are clearly one of the office neaters, Kay. No matter how hard I try, my desk ends up looking like a tornado swept through Staples.

    I decided I had to try to write in 1988, after seeing Moonstruck, and after believing the “Big Lie” (for 10 years) that you can’t learn to write fiction, esp. from books. Am quite happy to have proved that wrong, and to contribute several craft books that some have found helpful.

    Long haul? I want to be like Herman Wouk, and release a book when I’m 100. I’m thinking of calling it Romeo’s Dentures.

    • Good morning, Jim!

      For some reason, the photo of my desk looks a lot neater than the real-life version. I guess that’s true of a lot of things. 🙂

      I was working on my first novel and wondering if I had the talent to turn out an interesting story when I read about “The Big Lie” in your book Plot and Structure. Your explanation of writing as a craft was a catalyst for me. It gave me the confidence that I could write a good novel. IMHO your book should be required reading for all new authors.

      Romeo’s Dentures! Thanks for a good chuckle this morning.

      Have a great week.

    • Haha. My desk is a train wreck, too. Always. I must think better among chaos, because within thirty minutes of cleaning, it’s a mess again. *sigh*

    • Writing from the second place that tornado touched down! Sometimes the only way I know there’s a desk is that something has to be holding all that stuff up.

      And even with dentures, Mike will still be kicking butt. 🙂 And I’m eagerly awaiting September….

  7. Kay, I loved reading about your writing journey which brought you to where you are now, and also learning about your writing setup. It sounds ideal. I have a small room to myself (in our small house), which I share with floor to ceiling book shelves. I have a computer hutch between two tall sets of shelves and a writing desk below the window. And yes, telescopes 🙂

    For me, I tried writing a novel back in college, but never got past the first scene. I spent many years writing short stories and making stabs at writing novels, including two substantial, failed attempts but it wasn’t until 2003 that I finally decided I was going to actually finish a novel, come heck or high water. I took the book I’d started the previous year and jumped off from the 18K words I’d written and wrote another 44K in two months.

    I was so jazzed at doing this at long last that I planned on immediately drafting another before tackling the revision on the first, but my father, who had been ill for sometime, worsened. I moved in with him for a very short time to care for him in his final days. I was his executor and the next year was spent juggling that and my day job. I didn’t get back to writing another novel for a few years. The book I’d written didn’t work at all, but it had started me, at long last, down the path of writing novels.

    What surprised me about the journey was how much simple confidence in the “practice” of writing can accomplish, if you focus on that practice. I plan on writing and publishing until I am no more. I’d love to be found slumped over my keyboard at the age of 102, having just finished my final novel.

    Have a wonderful Monday!

    • Good morning, Dale!

      I loved reading about your writing journey. It seems breaking through the barriers to finishing the first novel is a hardest part. And I am so impressed that you wrote 44K words in two months! What an achievement!

      Here’s to all of us living to publish a book on our hundredth birthday — and then entering a wormhole so we can do it all over again. 🙂

      Have a great week.

  8. Great post, my friend!

    My first book wasn’t a novel. Neither were my second and third. But once I started writing some creative non-fiction stories (for fun, mind you), I began thinking of the stories as connected, as chapters in a book. That was in 2015.

    Then, I discovered my editor, sent her some chapters, and the rest is history.

    After I published those three books, or toward the end of that process, the characters in a play I’d written and produced in 2013 started harassing my girls in the basement.

    Put us in a novel . . . we want to be real people . . . please, please, please.

    The girls sent me the message (multiple times), and to get them all off my back, I started working on it.

    I plan to publish that novel this fall.

    That’s it . . . that’s how it happened. My characters rule! 🙂

    • Good morning, Deb!

      Your characters sound like very smart people. I’m glad you decided to let them have their way.

      Looking forward to that novel this coming fall. And many more after that.

  9. Blackness and buzzing means my power has gone out, and all the alternate power sources on my electronics are screaming about it. The buzzing has been happening this morning but not the blackness. The power company must be working on the power lines again.

    Writing novels had always been in my future since I was a little girl, but I remained busy with getting my various degrees and dealing with other crap. I wrote poetry and short stories in my spare time. Then my dad, the family storyteller, was diagnosed and died of fast-moving cancer. I realized that I was stupid to wait any longer so I began to put together my research and plot ideas, and started the first novel. That was 41 years ago in September.

    • Good morning, Marilynn!

      41 years ago? Bravo! What an amazing journey to look back on. I would love to hear what you think were the most important elements of your writing success.

      We lose power around here occasionally. The worst was “Hurricane Elvis” in 2003 — straight-line winds in excess of 100 mph.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memphis_Summer_Storm_of_2003

      It wasn’t nearly as much fun as a wormhole.

      Have a great week.

  10. My earliest memories involve writing stories. As soon as I could draw letters, I started putting adventures on the page. They weren’t very good, of course, but my mom loved them and I enjoyed the process.

    In high school, I wrote a 150-page story called “Initiation.” I found that story not too long ago, and the premise is pretty good. I may actually go back to that one day. Two truly crappy novels followed that. Then came a career and a family, and I wandered far away from fiction.

    Until I saw the movie, “Stand By Me.” There’s a scene at the very end where Richard Dreyfuss, as the grown-up Gordy LaChance, types the end of his manuscript on a word processor–a machine that I’d never seen before. We watch the characters appear on his green CRT as we hear the keys clacking in the background. That made me want to go back to writing again. That movie came out in 1986. I wrote what became NATTHAN’S RUN in 1994.

    • Thanks for sharing your journey, John. I’m wildly impressed that you wrote a 150-page story in high school! You should let us know if you decide to resurrect it.

      So glad you saw the movie that inspired you to write Nathan’s Run. I loved that book.

      Have a great week.

  11. My first long-form writing wasn’t a novel but rather a screenplay for The Man From U*N*C*L*E, my favorite show as a tween. I carefully printed it by hand on three-ring binder paper, included an SASE (b/c that’s what real pros did), and mailed it off. Some months passed and I received my very first rejection–a polite form letter saying they only considered scripts submitted through agents.

    Life intervened and writing stopped (except for business letters). In the late 1980s, I took creative writing courses at the local community college and wrote a number of short stories. I never believed I could tackle an entire novel. But my critique group encouraged me and pushed me through the first.

    The act of completion alone teaches you a lot. Although that novel and another nine “practice” novels were never published, my self-doubt went away and I kept at it.

    Dying slumped over my computer sounds good.

    • Good morning, Debbie!

      “The act of completion alone teaches you a lot.” There is such wisdom in this statement. I think fear of failure is a roadblock that affects most of us. Getting that first novel done breaks through the wall, and it’s all open road (well, some bumps along the way) after that.

      Slumped over the desk just after typing “The End” would be so fitting.

  12. Persistence and stupidity. A sane, smart person would have given up after over a dozen years of rejections, vanishing editors, and dying publishers. Looking back, I have realized that writing was keeping me happy as my personal life was shoved in directions I would have never chosen. Those directions were why I was put on Earth so at least God or Fate gave me writing.

    • Good thing you didn’t give up, Marilynn. Your story is one we should all keep in mind as we work our way through the various hazards. Thanks for the reminder that the rewards from writing are more than just being published.

  13. After I retired from my day job, I started writing seriously. The learning curve has been much more difficult than expected but more rewarding than expected.:-)

    • Hi Priscilla,

      So many of us began to write seriously after retiring from our regular jobs. Although I would like to have started earlier, I’m not sure I would have been good at balancing two demanding jobs at once.

      Definitely rewarding!

  14. When did you decide to write that first novel?
    Best guess, around 1989. I’d been in workshops since 1973, mostly doing short fiction, magazine articles. I wanted to tell the story of two children and their coping mechanism, an imaginary boat, the Silver Dream. Like most first novels, it is autobiographical. Sharon’s father is an alcoholic; David’s mom is dying of cancer. Sharon seeks solace in books, David in computer games.

    How did you get to the present moment?
    Writing a lot of different things and presenting them to workshops.

    Were you surprised by the journey?
    Not much. I knew the market was difficult, based on having read a 1970-ish book that spelled out the odds of success–minimal. The situation is no better, now. Most writers I know are losing money.

    Are you going to stay the course?
    Probably. Right now, I’m not marketing significantly. I’m writing psychological monographs based on my original studies. The post-covid writing is minimal as I deal with some old business that has arisen in the form of new business.

    • Good morning, JGuenther!

      Thanks for sharing your writing journey. Sounds like you have a lot of experience to draw from, and I like the idea of the children and their imaginary boat, The Silver Dream. Did you publish that book?

      I appreciate the reminder that the market for a writer is difficult. Setting realistic expectations is a good thing.

      Have a good week.

  15. About 15 years ago, my wife was reading a novel in bed, just before lights-out. She tossed it away and said, “Yiu can write better than this junk!” (She’d read some of my unpublished work from college.) The result was, “The White Vixen.”

    • Great story, David, and kudos to your wife for her part in your writing journey. Congratulations on The White Vixen!

      Glad you stopped by.

  16. As usual, I’m late to the party, but I went out of town and was so busy getting ready to leave I didn’t open my computer.
    I was a reader until I turned 35. That’s when these people came to live in my head and wouldn’t go away until I wrote their story. My first short story was published by Woman’s World followed by two more over a period of years. I finished my first novel in 1996 and will never forget the feeling that writing “The End” brought. Not that the novel will ever see the light of day. It was shredded many years ago, but some of the characters were in my first published novel.

    • What an interesting journey, Patricia. Those characters just won’t go away!

      I know how prolific you are, and I admire your ability very much. Keep it up!

Comments are closed.